By Brendan Graham
Halloween has come and gone once again, and while our favorite time of the year may be over, the horror continues throughout the holidays! One of the latest horrible holiday offerings is a slasher take on a Christmas classic called IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE that aims to deck the halls with blood but ends up spreading more holiday cheer than fear but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
In the quaint little town of Angel Falls, teenager Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop) has her Christmas spirit dashed when a murder spree by a masked angel ends the life of one of her best friends, and almost her brother Jimmy (Aiden Howard). She unmasks the killer and the town thinks the nightmare is over. One year later, the wounds are still fresh but the rest of the town has moved on like nothing happened and Winnie’s world is crumbling. She didn’t get into the school she wanted, she catches her boyfriend cheating on her and her family doesn’t seem to care that she is still grieving. Feeling hopeless, she wishes she was never born and suddenly is whisked away to an alternative universe where the killer is still at large and more brutal than before.
Right away I can tell you that the biggest show-stealer of the entire film is Justin Long, who plays the sleaziest real estate developer with the greatest of ease. He eats up every frame of the film that he’s in which is a positive and a negative here, many of the other supporting cast can’t quite live up to his performance and easily fade into the background. Not quite everyone is eclipsed by Long’s eccentric delivery, genre favorite Katharine Isabelle is charming as Winnie’s aunt Gale, and Jess McLeod provides the extra warmth to the emotional center as the town’s weirdo Bernie. It’s the building relationship between Winnie and Bernie that truly brings the film forward, where Joel McHale feels like a poor fit for Winnie’s dad and the film tends to drag when he’s up on the screen.
There’s an odd mix of slasher horror and Hallmark channel charm that fuels IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE and strange enough, it mostly works. The kills are short but still fairly nasty and you’ll see the influence of the Scream series and even I Know What You Did Last Summer here. The killer does have an ominous presence on screen and the film doesn’t overstay its welcome at less than 90 minutes but it could have used more fleshing out. The film feels rushed both in the story and in the presentation especially with the cinematography - going between scenes that are overlit, to scenes that need more structure and vision, it feels low budget in the worst ways at times. Viewers are also warned that there’s an extended sequence of flashing lights during a theater chase later in the film that felt unnecessary and poorly planned.
While IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE is more of a cozy holiday experience, horror fans will still find plenty to unwrap from some great kills and chase sequences to the fun antics of Justin Long. Christmas horror is the gift that keeps on giving, and I’m excited to see what other gruesome goodies we get this year.
IT’S A WONDERFUL KNIFE is now playing in theaters and will be slashing its way to SHUDDER at a later date.